The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 28 , 2014
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Letter salvo pierces veil of bonhomie

Patna, Jan. 27: The short-lived bonhomie between the JD(U) and Congress has given way to a burst of hostility with the Nitish Kumar government strongly questioning the “manner” in which Sonia Gandhi would lay the foundation stone of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)’s centre at Kishanganj later this week.

Sonia, the Congress president and UPA chairperson, is expected to visit Kishanganj, known as a Muslim bastion, on Thursday. Bihar Governor D.Y. Patil and Union HRD minister Pallam Raju, besides Kishanganj MP Asrarul Haq of the Congress, will accompany her.

The Bihar government, which says it heard of Sonia’s visit from media reports, accused it as an effort to convert an event related to the development of the state into a “Congress affair”.

Education minister P.K. Shahi today fired a letter to his central counterpart registering his “strong protest”.

“The least which is expected is the Centre ought to have taken the state government into confidence. We would have been happy to put in place all arrangements to make it successful,” the letter said.

Shahi also pointed out how the Nitish government went out of its way to make available 224 acres of land free of cost for the AMU centre in Kishanganj.

The bone of contention between the two parties — that had developed proximity in the wake of the JD(U)-BJP split but are now drifting apart — is believed to be the “competition” to strengthen their clout among the Muslim electorate in Kishanganj.

Sources in the Congress revealed that Sonia had decided to send out a strong message to the minorities that her party cared for them more than anyone else. “Soniaji will use the AMU event to launch the election campaign of the Congress from the party’s stronghold in Bihar,” said a party senior.

The Congress’s media in-charge, Premchand Mishra, described Shahi’s letter as “malicious”.

Shahi’s missive enumerated in detail how the state government had played a strong, pro-active role for the welfare of minorities, particularly in Kishanganj.

“The Bihar government has sanctioned as many as 35 intermediate level institutions in the district of Kishanganj alone. It has recently started the groundwork for a state-of-the-art Agriculture College in Kishanganj. We are committed to uplift the minorities,” the letter said.

The acrimony is far cry from the bonhomie shared by the parties when then Union road construction minister C.P. Joshi and Nitish had together inaugurated the mahasetu (mega-bridge) on the river Kosi in February 2012.